Herpes Zoster (more commonly known as Shingles) and Herpes SImplex are two of the most common forms of herpes. When referring to herpes, this article will mean oral or genital herpes and when referring to shingles, it will mean herpes zoster.
Anatomy of the human skin
Oral or genital herpes (Herpes simplex) is usually considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Shingles, on the other hand, is the result of latent chicken pox infection that has been re-activated. Shingles usually affects the body. It manifests as vesicles or blisters along patches of skin that usually start from the spine and can envelope a large area of the body. The genitals and the mouth (oral cavity) are the body areas usually affected by herpes.
While the viruses and mechanisms that result in these conditions are viewed in a different way by Western medicine, they are seen as almost the same in Chinese medicine. This enables traditional Chinese medicine practitioners and acupuncturists to address shingles and herpes easily and successfully, no matter what part of the body the outbreak occurs.
What are the Symptoms and Causes of Shingles and Herpes?
Caused by a viral infection, shingles is a painful rash that can develop on any part of the body. It usually occurs unilaterally (on one part of the body) and be restricted to a wide strip of skin known as a dermatome that starts at the spine. The virus responsible for this condition is the varicella zoster (chickenpox) virus. A person who never had chickenpox, will never develop shingles. The virus remains dormant in certain cells residing in the spinal cord after the person has had his chickenpox infection. After several years and during times of great stress and/or when the immune system is weak, the virus is reactivated resulting in shingles. Although not a potentially fatal disease, it usually is an extremely painful condition. When a shingles outbreak occurs, burning, searing, and/or electric vesicles or blisters develop along the dermatome areas, forming a crust that then heals.
Sufferers usually still feel pain even after the blisters heal and crust over. This is known is known as post-zoster pain or post-herpetic neuralgia Chinese herbs and acupuncture can be used to relieve the pain and lessen the severe symptoms of the outbreak. They are effective treatments for post-herpetic neuralgia, as well.
As mentioned a while ago, herpes can develop on the genital region or in the mouth. Symptoms that accompany genital herpes include blisters, sores, itching and pain. Still, there may also be infected individuals who may not manifest any obvious symptoms or signs at all. But, regardless if there are or no symptoms, herpes is a highly contagious disease. It is the result of an infection to the HSV (herpes simplex virus) and can be transmitted from mouth-to-mouth, mouth-to-genital, genital-to-mouth, skin-to-mouth, mouth-to –genital, or skin-to-skin. When the person has been infected, the virus initially remains dormant in the body; it can reactivate several times in a year.
Is acupuncture able to treat Shingles and Herpes?
Pain and Itching are the two most common symptoms of shingles and herpes. Scientists who have studied acupuncture’s potency in treating herpes have found that that the treatment can help relieve itch and pain related to these two diseases. Acupuncturists are certain that acupuncture treatment acts on the neurotransmitters and nerves to alleviate pain and itch signals traveling to the brain. From the viewpoint of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture has the ability to regulate the energetics and organ systems of the body to help neutralize pain and itching caused by shingles and herpes.
When combined with acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine produces faster and better results. Acupuncturists usually treat their herpes and shingles patients with topical herbs to stop the itching and pain. The herbs given usually come in the form of teas, which is placed on the affected areas. The tea can also be used as gargle if the case is oral herpes or utilized for stitz bath or as a douche for genital herpes. It can be applied with a cotton ball if the patient is suffering from shingles. Your acupuncturist may also recommend the use of herbal medicine internally (as a teat to drink). These herbs can used to help relieve itch and pain during flare-ups. For certain patients, herbs can be used in between flare-ups as prophylactic in case of outbreaks.
Ivelisse DeJongh is a Miami acupuncturist and the medical director at DeJongh Acupuncture Clinic.